The holidays are over but there is much to be thankful for. Do we consider the latest worldwide protocol to address airport security measures one of them? The repercussions of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s December 25th hijinx call to mind a recent experience flying from Paris to Los Angeles this past Thursday.
Before I begin, please know I had a fantastic time (as always) with family and friends in Paris and Monaco. Once European media outlet affiliates learned of Abudulmutallab’s blunder, the tone of most news broadcasts understandably warned of upgraded, heightened security measures for flights entering the United States of America. There was an obvious disconnect between the dire warnings, however, and the actual implementation of new measures at Charles De Gaulle.
I arrived at 7 a.m., a full 3 and a half hours before my scheduled departure via Air France. Airport security was present in numbers, to be sure. At the check-in area, I placed my luggage upon the scale and it read 24 kilos, or slightly under 53 pounds. I immediately learned of a new policy put into place a day AFTER I bought my ticket, instituting a surcharge for any bag exceeding 21 kilos (46.5 pounds). Begrudgingly, I paid additional fee of 100 Euros after being instructed I should take the matter up with customer relations, and then proceeded to the first security checkpoint. It was completely disorganized. People cutting in line without regard, some jumping out of line, and others unsure which queue to join since they were all equally disorganized.
At the check point, every passenger’s carry-on luggage was subject to be opened and reviewed. Strangely, for all the attention given the bags, many were not subject to remove shoes. A secondary security platform teeming with airport police awaited us at the gate destined for the U.S.A.. Men and women were separated, as the screening involved a pat down. The problem was, male screeners outnumbered the females 3 to 1. Needless to say, the women’s line bottlenecked quickly, while the men’s flowed with relative ease. I say “relative” because of the inefficiencies I witnessed. Namely:
– Each screener was equipped with a box of latex gloves. Despite the large box of replacement gloves on each ’security checker’ desk, none chose to discard the pair they were wearing. In fact, these ‘handlers’ simply fondled personal items of passengers. This was rather distressing, given some of the solvents, solutions, liquids, powders, etc. that they were handling. The thought of possible cross-contamination and its associated wrongful implication of an innocent passenger for another’s nefarious intent weighed heavily on my mind.
– No swab wiping for possible explosives for any baggage, clothing, etc.
– Only 1 out of approximately 10 people removed their shoes (which, I suppose, was an improvement over the first checkpoint. Sidenote – most who removed their shoes were Americans accustomed to the procedure and actually requested it!)
– The pilot for our flight was visible on 3 different occasions coming off the aircraft into the gate area to determine the cause of delay. His demeanor became increasingly perturbed with this joke of ‘heightened security.’
My 10:30 flight didn’t leave the tarmac until 1:00 p.m. By comparison, once I landed at LAX, an airport employee actually helped me with my luggage (the costly checked bag now had a broken zipper) and helped me hail a taxi too. Wow! Total time to the taxi from the aircraft? 20 minutes. As an added bonus, I made it home in an hour … remarkable, considering I was just starting to encounter rush-hour traffic. G-d Bless America!!!
The bottom line is that I applaud and encourage all airports to ramp up security procedures that benefit the public, but if these procedures are not efficient and consistent, then why bother. The 6 hour joke of ‘heightened security’ at Charles De Gaulle was quite disappointing, and as it seems, the only benefit was to supply additional jobs to the French airport ’security’.